News Local

GO project, street work set to start

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Wheels are turning as Barrie's waterfront GO station project and related roadwork is set to begin.

The reconstruction of Gowan Street, which runs alongside the old Allandale property, is scheduled to begin in early January and will close the road until September.

And a contract for the city's second GO Transit station is expected to be tendered at February's end, and commuter train service to be operating next fall.

"I know this is a fantastic opportunity to create tourist travel up to Barrie, to take advantage of how beautiful our city is and what it has to offer," said Coun. Jennifer Robinson, who represents this part of Barrie.

Barrie already has GO trains running from and to its St. Paul's Station on weekdays - four out in the morning, four back in the evening - but the Allandale station will give commuters more departure and arrival choices.

Gowan's reconstruction - from Essa Road to Milburn Street - will include curbs, a sidewalk and resurfacing, plus new sanitary sewer, storm sewer, watermain, GO parking on the north side of the street, street lighting and resurfacing the road.

The foundation for the pedestrian tunnel will also be built. The 20-metre tunnel will allow commuters and local residents to walk from parking areas along Gowan Street and under the tracks to the GO station platform - to be located southeast of the old station.

"The pedestrian tunnel needs to be completed by March 31, 2011 to help keep the Gowan Street reconstruction project separated from the GO contract and avoid two general contractors working on the same site and at the same time," said Leonard Borgdorff, senior project engineer for the city.

The GO station work includes platforms, lighting and an internal roadway, as well as enclosures for communications and mechanical equipment.

GO Transit also plans to build a train fuelling facility on Lakeshore Drive, west of the BDO Dunwoody building at Minet's Point Road. It would have capacity for 140,000 litres of fuel.

Gowan's Street reconstruction will cost almost $8.96 million, with GO kicking in more than $2 million for parking spots and the pedestrian tunnel. The city's share of the GO station work is $3.875 million.

Barrie's partner in redeveloping the Allandale property, the Correct Group Inc. (GCI), will also be contributing an as-yet undetermined amount toward the pedestrian tunnel, laneways and site servicing costs.

At this point the city's net projected cost stands at $8.8 million, which is about 15% more than the $7.7-million budget.

Robinson said she was concerned with the projects' costs.

"But with the necessary safety issues like rail crossings improvements, this is vital to keeping our residents safe while in the area," she said.

City staff say the costs are more than expected for three main reasons.

Gowan's reconstruction, for example, was expanded to include lowering sanitary sewers on Essa Road to provide the acceptable depth of the new Gowan sewers.

The nearby Gowan/Essa rail crossing improvements were also included.

And the new GO station has potential increased costs for bus platform snow melting based on design work completed by GO Transit's consultant.

The Gowan reconstruction and building the GO station project were initially one project, but the station design was only 50% complete in mid-December so the work was separated.

Barrie's GO trains have now been running for three years. On average, 660 people board one of the four trains every morning in Barrie heading for the Toronto area and about 690 return at day's end.

The train stops in Bradford, East Gwillimbury, Newmarket, Aurora, King City, Maple, Rutherford and York University. It's normally standing room only by the time it reaches Union Station in Toronto.

During the 2007 provincial election campaign, Premier Dalton McGuinty said there will eventually be eight GO trains out of Barrie on weekday mornings and eight back in the evenings.

The 10-year plan for Barrie's GO Transit service includes double tracking - laying the foundation to run trains in both directions simultaneously for future all-day, two-way service.

Meanwhile, Allandale Village - the redevelopment of the old station lands - continues to take shape.

CGI wants the commercial/ residential portion of this project to be as large as 335,000 square feet on almost 4.7 acres of the nine-acre site. There would be five development areas and seven buildings as high as five storeys each of retail, commercial, office, condominium and hotel use.

There could be 224 residential units -- half for hotel rooms, half for condominiums. It would take four to six years to build the entire project, with the first phase a minimum of 50,000 sq. ft. And it's expected that 65,000-70,000 sq. ft. will be built in each of the next five years, subject to the market and economic conditions.

The employment impact of this development is expected to be 600 jobs, with significant permanent employment created, as well.

There will be 471 parking spaces created on the land -- 111 on street and 360 underground.

This project also includes restoring the former Allandale train station.

With files by Marg. Bruineman and Ian McInroy

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